The Blue Mountains Ghost

Dany Marquis

I started working with "grand cru" coffees around 2007.

At that time, I was still trapped by the high demand for the darkest and meanest looking beans there is, people wanted roasted beans that were as dark as hell. I was so desperately trying to move my customers to try a different type of coffee roast, a roast that offers more than just burnt bitterness. This duality still remains with some of my customers to this day, but I have long since stopped reckoning them. If they prefer a darker, more aggressive profile of coffee, it's up to them. Taste is indisputable and if our coffees make them happy, I am happy. And they participate, by their choice, in our adventure, and it is partly thanks to them that we are today a well-positioned company with an offer of exceptional grands crus (Réserve Sélecte Collection).

Many years later, I finally convinced many of my customers to try my private imports, almost one at a time, but I did it. You should try them too, it is a must. I would like to mention that the entire industry was changing and participating in this too. With the arrival of what was called the 3rd wave. For our case, we took the approach way further than what the 3rd wave offered, whose codes and business model tend to limit quality (which is still respectable) to the detriment of a sometimes pompous and caricatured marketing.

So you can find our offer of 3rd wave-styled coffees, especially in our Prestige collection, without the snobbery and overkill hidden by a tidal wave of information, but I wanted more. I wanted even better than that.

It has become a real quest for me, to try and offer my clients the very best coffees in the world.

So, over time, I discovered how to get my hands on the best of them. First, through the Cup of Excellence, I made contact with them. Afterward, I bought some at the private auctions of exceptional farms. The kind of auctions that only sell to select groups of buyers. And finally, I made it through all that to be able to buy directly from the farms themselves.

There is a whole coffee universe to discover, but the sad part is that it's almost hidden and inaccessible for most of us. Coffee is an agricultural product that compares to wine, you must already know that the majority of them are ok, but there are some exceptional ones too. It's the same thing with coffee. The exceptional coffees are the expertly tested ones. They are rated and sold according to their quality, and not their fairytale folklore.

It is on this exciting road that I embarked on several years ago. And without abandoning my customers who have adopted us for coffees with a more standard profile, I confess that I have a real obsession with coffee tasting.

It is on this exciting road that I embarked on several years ago. And without abandoning my customers who have adopted us for coffees with a more standard profile, I confess that I have a real obsession with coffee tasting.

What is a good coffee?

What is an extraordinary coffee?

Since we are in the subjective and I didn't want to rely too much on my personal preferences, I started by relying on the cupping scores that came out of the independent auctions. When 1200 people, following the same protocol, who don't know each other, taste a coffee without knowing any more information than a simple number and they give this coffee an average score, let's say 89 points, we can trust this score.

So I began to buy, not to say collect, batches that scored over 88 points. Of course, my budget was still a major constraint and I had to choose my coffees wisely.

The first batches I bought, which fall into what I call a grand cru, were difficult to sell. In 2011, I bought part of the #1 lot of the Cup of Excellence Colombia Arnulfo Leguizamo, from Primavera Farm. This lot had achieved an extraordinary score of 94 points.

We could call this kind of coffee a unicorn.

It was wonderful, fruity, balanced, my brain still remembers it. This lot was expansive, but it was worth it. However, in 2011, my network was not ready for this type of coffee, and probably my reputation was not big enough to claim to offer this type of coffee. The patience was put in, and I continued to offee my purchases of great coffees to customers who often became followers of filter coffee well prepared to showcase this type of coffee.

I must tell you that in 2011, only one person allowed to pass through the 60kg of Primavera, that is to say, me. Not that I want to look like a victim, I was more than happy to enjoy this coffee, but say that financially, for the company, it was not my best shot. 60kg at 150 $ / kg ...

So I officially marked the beginning of my work with great coffee by this purchase in 2011. And today, 8 years later, I can assure you that my selections do not sleep on the shelves, my group of customers who follow me in my adventures is faithful and I am very grateful. I take my role as a coffee hunter very seriously. I am still responsible for the dose of happiness of many people.

This is a serious job.

And if 2011 marks this direction for the company, it is also the year of the appearance of a ghost that would haunt me for several years. It appeared occasionally since 2005 when I started the business with brief appearances, during coffee conversations, but nothing alarming.

From 2011, apparitions became more and more frequent. Not necessarily scary, but rather irritating. Disturbing.

From the point of view of the entrepreneur that I am, I was in "lean" mode as they say in the business world.

I bootstrapped the company. In real world language, I lived as humbly as possible in order to put the maximum amount of money aside to buy lots of coffee. Because one of the difficulties of this type of work is the money necessary to take in inventory the coffees that I wanted. We can count on excellent brokers who have a respectable inventory and who can help us, finance us, etc., but you have to buy what the selected. If you really want to have a unique offer, you have to take out your wallet. No producer or organization, co-op or exporter will agree to fund a lot to a young entrepreneur who makes coffee in a cabin at the seaside 1000km from Montreal. And as for the banks, they are more interested today than they were at the beginning.

So I saved and made the purchase of lots that I wanted. Year after year, if we managed properly, our purchasing budget increased and I could choose. It's an entrepreneur luxury!

We started to buy coffee on the Cup of Excellence coffee compettion, we were now present on auctions that reached astronomical highs like Best of Panama, we could buy lots of prestigious farms by contacting them directly, in short, I reached a very pleasant stage of my career. And talking about my imports was for me an inexhaustible pleasure.

But it was not counting this ghost that landed without warning and that made me lose my mojo almost every time. I would say that in the last 3 years it has become almost an aggression.

Let me tell you how the ghost appeared, since if I cannot predict when it will appear, I can say, when the conditions are gathered, that there is a good chance of seeing his nose.

As if I was saying that it only appears when the tide is at its highest point, that it is starting to go down with full moon. At this point, if you look on the shore, near the gull tower, you will have a good chances to see the ghost. But it may not appear either. It’s hard to predict.

My ghost is a different.

Let me tell you in what context the appearance happen.

I am at my office, around 14h, time of my daily double espresso shot. So I go to the coffeeshop area to prepare my dose. When passing the big black door that separates the production universe from the coffeeshop space, I know that sometimes the return to my office will be delayed by exciting discussions with customers who will meet me.

When I get to the side of the espresso machine, I am then exposed to various discussions, the Canadian hockey team last game, the Liberal Party, the date of installation of the winter tires, the work of the dock that look late, and everything depending on my schedule, I will let myself go, or not, in conversations.

This is one of my little pleasures, and I like to provoke polemics within my regular customers.

  • Did you vote for the Liberals?
  • Me, voted for this gang of thief are you crazy?
  • You don’t have to be shy, we know you always voted for them.

I start fire in the conversation, I put more gas on it and I return to my occupations. That’s fun.

But I never miss an opportunity to discuss coffee. Especially when I notice that hooked atoms appear in the thread of the coffee discussion.

And if I see an interest in quality coffees, manual brewing method, pour over or questions about our imports, our ways of working, the payment methods of producers, the management of customs, or whatever, I forget everythng I had to do in my office.

And there we talk.

And in the discussion, I have some important points to communicate, such as:

  • Free shipping anywhere in Canada with an order of $ 65 +
  • Three coffee collections based on quality levels: Classic, Prestige and Reserve Select

And often, when I mention our prestigious Reserve Select collection, the curiosity of my interlocutors is piqued.

Then I explain to them the contents of our collection, with a pride equivalent to the difficulty that I had to put all that in place. It’s a long way to the top if you want to offer great coffee.

  • -A bourbon from Rwanda, which came in 6th in the country's Cup of Excellence with a 89-point cupping, dominant aroma of caramel and raspberry, a crowd pleaser, excellent. It’s our 4th importation from Rwanda, here on the wall, it’s a picture I took when I was on the Kivu lake.
  • -This one is a natural pulped from Brazil, which made the top 3 in the Cup of Excellence Brazil, a cupping score of 90.8 points! Coffees up to 90 points is very rare, this one comes from an extremely prosperous pool, Brazil. It is one of the largest producers in the world, so came 3rd with so much competition, it's incredible. And we have this on the shelf.
  • -Just beside, this dark bottle is from the prestigious farm La Esmeralda in Panama, it is the botanical variety gesha, one of the most famous in the world. This farm has produced for many years the best coffees in the world and has reached astronomical prices at auction and buyers from around the world are pulling their production. We this right there.

I am in a trance, prancing and empowered by hearing my own words when my customer interrupts me by asking:

  • It's nice, but do you know the Blue Mountains coffee?

...And it's the same thing every time.

  • You have good coffee, but do you have Blue Mountains coffee?
  • You should buy Blue Mountains, it's the best coffee in the world.

And now, for 15 years, I'm haunted. And despite all the energy I put into it, independent audits, Cup of Excellence auctions, coffees used by barista competitio’s winners, in spite of all the evolution of the coffee market, improved processes on the producers' side, a large portion of my clients tell me about the Blue Mountains.


And even though my Reserve Select collection works well, as coffee maniacs from across Canada, United States and even a few in Europe have embraced us, some of my clients were reluctant to give credibility to my collection.

You don’t have Blue Mountains coffee?

And this is the ghost I’m talking about, coming back according to the discussions.

Blue Mountains.

  • Have you ever tasted the Blue Mountains coffee?

After 15 years, I swear to you that this ghost was starting to irritate me.

And of course I had tasted at the famous Blue Mountains coffee. I even bought some bags from several roasters, several times, and some customers brought me regularly when they go in Jamaica for vacation. They are there, in vacation, with all their luggage to come back, they bring gift for their kids, loved one, and they think about their coffee roaster who don’t have Blue Mountain coffee in there offer.

  • Hey Dany, we're coming back from Jamaica, we've brought you a gift, a bag of Blue Mountains coffee.

And I tried, and retried it, and I did not like it. In short, nothing to excite me and to make a place in my Reserve Select collection.

However, I have always remained open, especially since the coffees i’ve got were almost, always too much or badly roasted. And even sometimes, I doubted it was really the coffee it was supposed to be. Because the dark stories of mixing different coffee, in the back of the warehouse, when nobody is looking, is running.

You buy a bag of good coffee and sell the equivalent of 3 ... A part of this here, three parts of this here… It's so easy to cheat, and to do like drug dealers, you cut the merchandise with a little crap to increase margin. And your roast it darker to hide the difference. The dark side of the coffee business.

And one day, I told myself that I would have to understand. I will have to go there and resolve this case. Exorcise or welcome this ghost that haunts the most heavenly, tasty, delightful coffee collection we have.

What's all about this buzz around this coffee, is it real or genius marketing strategy?

I had to settle this file.

So I flew in early July this year, heading to Kingston, Jamaica, for 3 full weeks on the island.

If you are not yet aware, I finally made a place in Blue Mountain in my collection. I welcomed the ghost. The famous barrels of 70kg of coffee are already in our workshop, and available in presale.

So here I am, at the beginning of July, landing at Kingston airport like a tourist without knowing where to go.

How could I satisfy my curiosity?

It was without knowing that I was going to find a person who would allow me to go around the question. And much more.

More details in the next episode.

One Love!



  • Philippe Ferry

    Quelle générosité dans votre propos … tout à " déguster " … merci !

  • Raymonde St-Laurent

    Nous avons, mon conjoint et moi, rencontré votre fantôme il a environ 30 ans… et on se souvient encore de l’expérience! Une subtile explosion de bonheur dans la bouche, mémorable comme un “fix” de drogue. Drogue de luxe à 100$/kg de mémoire, pas mal cher à cette époque pour 2 jeunes étudiants mais je vous jure que ça valait de coût. C’est pourquoi j’attends avec impatience l’arrivée du fantôme promesse de plaisir qui, je n’en ai aucun doute, sera d’une qualité irréprochable. Merci de partager votre passion avec nous.

  • Linda Rail

    Votre écriture est aussi captivante… que le café. Merci de nous dévoiler votre démarche; on est un peu votre univers.

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